- Democrat Rep. Marcy Kaptur is concerned that her party is losing touch with working-class voters.
- She made a chart showing Democrats overwhelmingly represent the wealthiest congressional districts.
- “How is it possible that Republicans are representing the majority of people who struggle?” she said.
Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio worries that her party has become too disconnected from working-class voters — and she has a handy chart to illustrate the conundrum.
Kaptur, the longest-serving female member of Congress in American history, has represented a Toledo-era House district since 1983.
During an interview on Monday in her Capitol Hill office, the congresswoman produced a two-page chart that lists every US House district by median income in 2021, with Democratic-held districts highlighted in blue and Republican-held districts highlighted in red.
The result? A sea of blue on the first page, where the highest-earning districts can be found, and a splash of red on the second page, where the lowest-earning districts are listed.
“You could question yourself and say, well, the blue districts are the wealthiest districts, so it shows that the Democrats are doing better to lift people’s incomes,” said Kaptur. “The other way you could look at it is: how is it possible that Republicans are representing the majority of people who struggle? How is that possible?”
Kaptur told Insider that her office first produced a version of the chart during the last Congress, and that she was “trying to impress upon my own caucus” that Democrats overwhelmingly represent some of the wealthiest corners of America.
Exit polling from the 2020 presidential election somewhat complicates Kaptur’s thesis. According to CNN, voters making less than $100,000 tended to vote for Biden, while former President Donald Trump garnered nearly 60% of voters who make between $100,000 and $199,000.
Among those making $200,000 or more, Biden and Trump were essentially tied.
Nonetheless, her chart makes clear that lower-income districts like hers tend to be represented by the GOP — and Democrats’ modern-day dominance in wealthy, highly-educated enclaves has come at the expense of traditionally-Democratic constituencies elsewhere.
“It makes a difference in how you speak,” said Kaptur. “My hardest struggle is to have my staff speak in a way that the public I represent will here. For Democrats, that’s very hard.”
According to the chart, a digital version of which was provided to Insider by her office, the Ohio congresswoman’s district clocks in at number 341 with a median income of $57,732, according to US Census data.
By contrast, many other well-known Democrats represent higher-earning districts. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district, for example, is the 7th-wealthiest in the country.
“I’m not saying Nancy Pelosi didn’t live struggle,” said Kaptur. “But you have such a different perspective on where you need to move to help your communities, right?”
“There’s an elitism that pervades when you have wealth,” she added.
Kaptur has given a version of the chart to President Joe Biden, and says she presented the document to members at a recent caucus meeting. According to her, Democrats ranging from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries down to rank-and-file lawmakers are often taken aback by the visual.
“And then they’re quiet, and they just study it,” she said. “I don’t know where it takes us, except I hope to a more enlightened future.”